Health equity in economic and trade policies

Aid for Trade at a glance in 2009: Maintaining momentum
World Trade Organization: 2009

Aid for Trade is an initiative that started in 2005 through the WTO framework in recognition of the fact that developing countries lack the basic infrastructure and capacity to take advantage of the market access opportunities resulting from trade negotiations – normal aid programmes have not been able to deal with these. This second global review aimed to evaluate the progress of the initiative and implemention on the ground. It says the initiative has achieved remarkable progress in a short time, as partner countries are mainstreaming trade in their development strategies and clarifying their needs and priorities, and donors are improving aid for trade delivery and scaling up resources. In 2007, aid for trade grew by more than 10% in real terms and total new commitments from bilateral and multilateral donors reached US$25.4 billion, with an additional US$27.3 billion in non-concessional trade-related financing. But maintaining the momentum will be difficult in this current economic recession, and that the quantity and the quality of aid, including aid for trade, are now more important than ever for economic growth and human welfare.

Aid for trade: An opportunity for re-thinking aid for economic growth
Brüntrup M and Voionmaa P: Trade Negotiation Insights 9(2), March 2010

In this article discussing aid for trade (AfT) initiatives between European and African states, the author points out that AfT may be misused, as it aims to integrate developing countries into global markets, which serves the interests of the Western world as they view these African states as (future) trading partners and as drivers of the global trade policy agenda they serve. Another risk of AfT is that it tends to underestimate the potential of domestic markets. For instance, the rapidly growing population and urbanisation in many African countries creates great opportunities for domestic farmers and food industries. The AfT agenda also adds to the increasing number of ‘vertical’ initiatives, such as the fund for HIV and AIDS or infrastructure. This leads to a segmentation of development cooperation, while efforts instead should seek to make aid more flexible by aligning it to developing countries’ priorities without earmarking it in advance for certain thematic issues. For all these reasons, the authors recommend a very careful, transparent and participatory use of the AfT initiative. Trade and AfT are not ends in themselves, but means to achieve the ultimate goal of reducing poverty. Hence, AfT must be embedded in overarching national growth and poverty strategies which balance inward and outward orientation of national economies and ultimately aim to generate resources for social development and poverty reduction.

Aid for trade: An opportunity to increase fruit and vegetable supply
Thow AM: Bulletin of the World Health Organisation (early online version), 16 November 2012

Low fruit and vegetable consumption is an important contributor to the global burden of disease. In the wake of the United Nations High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), held in September 2011, a rise in the consumption of fruits and vegetables is foreseeable and this increased demand will have to be met through improved supply. The World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Bank have highlighted the potential for developing countries to benefit nutritionally and economically from the increased production and export of fruit and vegetables. Aid for Trade, launched in 2005 as an initiative designed to link development aid and trade holistically, offers an opportunity for the health and trade sectors to work jointly to enhance health and development. It is one of the few sources of aid for development that is stable and experiencing growth, according to this paper. At present the health sector has very little input into how Aid for Trade funds are allocated. This is an opportune moment to investigate opportunities for collaboration, since more than half of the reporting external funders are planning to revise their Aid for Trade strategies in 2013. Health departments should make central planning and finance departments aware of the potential health and economic benefits, for both developed and developing countries, of directing Aid for Trade to fresh produce markets.

AIDS activists denounce European Commission’s actions in trade
Act Up-Paris: 21 July 2010

Act-Up Paris made this speech via the European Commission's (EC) satellite to the International AIDS Conference, held from 18 – 23 July in Vienna, Austria. It denounces the EC’s actions, such as its decision to take a trade-based and not a health-based approach to access to medicines, and accuses the body of duplicity in its Free Trade Agreement negotiations with India, its negotiations regarding the proposed All Censorship Trade Agreement (ACTA), which aims to govern global intellectual property rights, and seizures of allegedly counterfeit generics being transported from India to South America and Africa. Act-Up Paris asserts that the EC is working to make medicines more expensive, while at the same time freezing its contributions to the Global Fund. It urges the EC to respect the Doha Declaration and to embark on a global rights-based approach to dealing with HIV and AIDS.

Further details: /newsletter/id/35257
AIDS drug access alert: Abbott denies new drugs to Thai people
AIDS Healthcare Foundation, 14 March 2007

US drug giant Abbott Laboratories has banned its new drugs in Thailand in response to the Thai government's decision to protect the health of its citizens by issuing a compulsory license on Abbott's AIDS drug Kaletra. Abbott's decision could potentially deny access to lifesaving drugs to the more than 500,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand, as well as to others with serious health conditions. The company's move has sparked outrage throughout the global health community.

AIDS drugs for Africa deal is off as pharma giants pull out
Townsend A: The Independent, 3 December 2006

Some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, including FTSE 100 giant GlaxoSmithKline, are reported to have failed to sign a formal agreement that would ensure HIV and AIDS patients in poor nations receive vital drugs. The agreement was drawn up during three years of talks between companies and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), which has 20 million members and 400 affiliated unions worldwide.

Alarm escalates over delayed generic drug shipments to developing countries
New W: Intellectual Property Watch, 6 March 2009

Oxfam International, Health Action International (HAI) and Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) have voiced their alarm over recent seizures by the Dutch government of shipments of legitimate generic pharmaceuticals passing through Europe on their way to developing countries. The recent seizure of legitimate generic antiretroviral medicines in transit from India to Nigeria by Dutch customs authorities could lead to HIV-positive Nigerian patients missing critical treatment. They have called on the European Union to review and modify its regulations on counterfeiting that are prompting the seizures. They also urged the EU to reconsider inclusion of its regulation in regional free trade agreement negotiations. If it does not, ‘this could prove disastrous for access to medicines in some regions,’ they said.

Alcohol marketing in Africa: not an ordinary business
Obot IS: African Journal of Drug and Alcohol Studies, 12(1), 2013

Alcohol was the cause of nearly five million deaths globally in 2010, an increase of over one million deaths recorded ten years earlier. It was the leading risk factor for disease in southern sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Several factors account for the increasing harm associated with alcohol in Africa among which are the availability of a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, rising urban populations, more disposable income to purchase alcohol, and unrestrained marketing and promotion of alcohol. Using a variety of strategies, producers of alcohol target young people and women with aspirational messages and other exhortations in an onslaught of marketing and promotion. The author argues that missing in the discussion on alcohol in most African countries is the understanding that alcohol marketing is not an ordinary economic activity and that the business of alcohol (an addictive substance with high potential for harm) can subvert individual rights and democratic principles. This paper discusses these issues with particular attention to the harms caused by alcohol (to drinkers and non-drinkers alike), the potential for far-reaching harms to individuals and the society at large if the present scenario continues, and how these harms can be averted or minimized with the implementation of evidence-based policies.

All roads lead back to China
Sharife K: Pambazuka News 531, 26 May 2011

Across Africa, China has become known as the agent of mass construction, bartering infrastructural development – chiefly mining-specific – for long-term access to strategic resources. Through this mechanism, Ghanaian cocoa, Gabonese iron and Congolese oil have been swapped for construction of dams (Bui, Poubara, and River Dam), allowing Chinese corporations such as Sinohydro to capture Africa's hydropower market. The 'barter system' enables China to export goods and labour and to 'import' recycled project capital and African resources. In the process, the author of this article argues that China has activated the same 'Western' capitalist vehicles of engagement but with one noticeable difference: prior to Beijing's entrance, just 4% of foreign direct investment (FDI) was earmarked for infrastructure. China has constructed stadiums across the continent, as well as buildings and special economic zones. Though Zambia was pegged as the third largest recipient of Chinese investment in Africa, Zambian labour unions appear apprehensive about Chinese FDI as the means of national development, stating that Chinese FDI has had modest impact on national development, with overall negative impacts on the labour market. In Zambian mines, the bulk of the work is reported to be subcontracted to Chinese workers and companies, leading to complaint of displacement of local workers.

Alternative Mining Indaba 2018
Economic Justice Network et al.,: Alternative Mining Indaba, Cape Town, February 2018

The Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) started in 2010 with a small group of approximately 40 participants lead by Faith Based Organisations. It intended to create space for communities living in and around mines affected by and left out of key discussions of extractive industries in Africa. The theme for the 2018 AMI was: “Making Natural Resources Work for the People: Towards Just Legal, Policy and Institutional Reform”. The Thematic issues for discussion included: human rights defenders; the curse of natural resource policies; gender and legal reforms; the independent problem solving mechanism; policies and laws that facilitate the benefit sharing for local people and faith and the extractives sector. The meeting gathered representatives of over 400 members of faith-based organisations, civil society organisations, community-based organisations, pan-African networks and organisations, labour movements, women movements, human rights activists, media, students from African countries and international partners on February 5 – 7, 2018 in Cape Town. The AMI site provides presentations and proceedings from the indaba.